22 Mar 2019

Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Reviewed by Lani Asher

A refugee from Latvia, Vija Celmins came to the U.S. as a child. Her early work reflects her sense of dislocation: an inscrutable giant comb sculpture, a tiny house on fire, WWII bombers, nuclear blasts, a disembodied hand firing a gun, and pencil drawings of satellite pictures of the moon.

After moving to Venice Beach, Celmins started to draw and paint from ocean photographs. Night sky pieces follow her travels to deserts in the Southwest. The deep black surfaces are dotted with stars and are layered, sanded, erased, and rebuilt.

To Fix the Image in Memory I-XI (1977-82), after which this revelatory retrospective at SFMOMA is titled, pairs river rocks with perfectly duplicated bronze replicas. In her recent installations she couples old-fashioned school blackboards with her identical copies. The wabi sabi beauty found in her sensitive renderings, the use of erasure, repetition, copying, layering, and the discipline of her practice produce something that feels transcendental.

Exhibition Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory link
Start date 15 Dec 2018
End date 31 Mar 2019 (22 days ago)
Presenter San Francisco Museum of Modern Art link
Venue 151 Third Street, San Francisco, CA, USA map
Image Vija Celmins, Blackboard Tableau #1, 2007–10; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase, by exchange, through the bequest of Elise S. Haas; © Vija Celmins; photo: courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
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